Sounds of the season: Five of this year’s best Christmas songs

theGrio highlights some of the best holiday singles of 2021.

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Christmas music is one that enhances the joyous atmosphere that comes with the holiday season. Every year, we can’t wait to hear those familiar Yuletide classics from Donny Hathaway, Mariah Carey, Nat King Cole and more.

Although the songs the aforementioned artists created are timeless, some truly amazing holiday music is being made this generation. We’ve been treated to tracks like Lloyd’s “She’s All I Want For Christmas,” Destiny’s Child’s “8 Days of Christmas” and John Legend’s collaboration with producer Raphael Saadiq for A Legendary Christmas.

It’s been no different in 2021, as several Black artists from different genres have blessed fans with new recordings to add to the seasonal repertoire. theGrio chose five of the best contemporary Christmas songs that debuted this year.

1.”Lonely Christmas” – Bryson Tiller

The architect of Trapsoul built his reputation with skittering, seductively brooding music. However, for his holiday EP, A Different Christmas, Tiller brought a more wholesome approach to his brand of contemporary R&B. The project’s lead single, “Lonely Christmas” includes some dirty-pop sheen from Justin Bieber, but among the best moments on the EP are Tiller’s simple, stripped-down renditions of “Winter Wonderland” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.”

2. “Kiss Me It’s Christmas” – Leona Lewis and Ne-Yo

The British singer with the big voice has returned with a new album of holiday songs, Christmas, With Love Always. Although the project includes quality renditions of seasonal standards like “Silent Night” and “Ave Maria,” Lewis added some enjoyable originals. The best is a duet with Ne-Yo called “Kiss Me It’s Christmas.” It captures his signature melodic flavor and the two display some sweet chemistry for a delightful, breezy Christmas song.

3. “Christmas Day” – Kerry Douglas, Shawn McLemore & Zacardi Cortez

Kerry Douglas earned his way into the Stellar Honors Hall of Fame as a BMI award-winning songwriter. Thanks to him, fellow gospel artists like Earnest Pugh, James Fortune, and Zacardi Cortez have gained notoriety. The highlight of Douglas’ Gospel Mix Christmas is the slick, soulful “Christmas Day,” recorded by Cortez with the late gospel powerhouse Shawn McLemore.

4. “Fall in Love With Christmas” – Mariah Carey, Khalid and Kirk Franklin

There’s been no other artist as synonymous with Christmas hits over the past 30 years as Carey. Her 1994 multi-platinum Merry Christmas LP and its breakout single, “All I Want For Christmas Is You” became an instant holiday standard. The five-time Grammy-winner isn’t resting on the strength of Christmas (music) past, though.

This year, she teamed up with R&B crooner Khalid and Kirk Franklin for the single, “Fall in Love with Christmas.” Built on acoustic guitar, light piano and sparse percussion, the ballad is at its best when Carey and Khalid harmonize together before Franklin’s sinuous choir takes things to the next level.

5. Gonna Tell Somebody (Spontaneous)” – Maverick City Music

Maverick City Music is one of the most impressive and successful music collectives in American gospel today. From five Grammy nominations to Dove and Stellar Award wins, they have emerged as one of the genre’s top groups.

Now, they’re expanding on that success and goodwill with a new holiday project, A Very Maverick City Christmas. Although it’s billed as an EP, this 16-track collection features an amazing mixture of familiar Christmas tunes as well as some impressive original compositions.

“Gonna Tell Somebody (Spontaneous),” with vocals from Melvin Crispell III, Isaac Carree and Lizzie Morgan is a brilliant live gospel recording that places you right into the church pews, ready to pull out a tambourine and start dancing in the aisles.

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